It’s International Women’s Day this month and also Women’s History Month across the whole of March. It’s a really important moment to celebrate the achievements of women, but also discuss the actions that need to happen to create greater gender equality.
This year’s theme is ‘Break The Bias’. There are so many in Xero’s community of accountants, bookkeepers and small businesses that are working hard to break many of the biases that still exist in our business communities today.
I spoke with one of those individuals – Nkhesani Kapena, Managing Director at accounting firm Zero 123 – about the work they are doing to support women in the South African accounting industry, but also female entrepreneurship across the country. It’s inspiring to see women like Nkhesani stepping outside of their day job to help drive the industry forward.
Here’s some of her reflections on the work that still needs to be done to break biases in accounting, and her advice for women looking to grow their careers or businesses.
Pushing the accounting industry forward
Women are the engines of many accounting firms. Our abilities to multitask, pay attention to the detail and think on our feet, make us natural leaders. My advice to the broader industry is to let us lead. I think we should not only be given a seat at the table, we must be given the freedom to build our own tables and be compensated fairly and equally for it.
We hire mostly young women in our firm and mentor them all the way up to leadership positions either in our firm or in other big organizations across the country. Our support comes in the form of true mentorship beyond just the day-to-day work and active career path plans for our interns.
Supporting female entrepreneurship in South Africa
We are very hands on with our female-led clients. A big part of this is empowering them with the necessary financial literacy and tools to understand their finances, and ultimately build a healthy business. We also host things like business breakfast events so our clients can network and learn from each other.
We also want to make our services accessible to those starting out. Our fees are very competitive and flexible depending on what they can afford when they join us. We don’t compromise on quality regardless of their size. We really do invest a lot of time in helping female entrepreneurs grow, so we can grow with them.
How to take your first step into the accounting industry
Just go for it! First step would be to get an accounting qualification from an accredited learning institution. For example, you could apply for SAIPA training with a firm like Zero 123. We use the latest cloud tools and technology, and have a fantastic team. The main thing is find yourself a firm that is ambitious and will give you the opportunity to try new things. Never stop learning and growing.
How to manage your finances as a female entrepreneur
Get yourself aligned with a financial advisory firm that will act not only as your advisor, but your business partner. A true financial advisor will empower you with critical financial literacy tools and give you tips on your cash flow.
Remember, the business’ money is not your personal money. Save, make smart investments and did I say, save? Above all, keep on top of compliance matters – whether it’s with SARS for taxes or CIPC because these could literally spell the end of your business if poorly managed.
The piece of advice I wish I’d been given
I was very fortunate to start my accounting career off in a firm that had fantastic leaders – both male and female. They still guide me to this very day. My advice to others starting off would therefore be to try and align yourself with great leaders. Sometimes you might get a dose of tough love in your career development, but hang tight and trust the process.